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Understanding divorce arbitration in Ontario

Many people grew up hearing stories or watching television programs in which a husband and wife slug it out alongside their lawyers in a courtroom battle. As a result, this image essentially defines divorce for those who have not been through it. The truth is, there are many options available to men and women in Ontario seeking to end their marriages other than going to court. One of those options is arbitration, though the process may not be a familiar one.

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. ADR processes are inherently less confrontational than litigated divorces, and work well for those people who can still be civil with their former partners. For spouses who can't quite reach an agreement, but who do not wish to have their issues decided by a judge, arbitration may be the perfect compromise.

As they would in a litigated divorce, the divorcing couple will present their issues along with their respective lawyers to an arbitrator. The arbitrator is a neutral party who will make decisions based on the information presented. Each party is free to introduce evidence and witnesses to support their claims. An arbitrator can make decisions regarding any issue defined in an arbitration agreement created by both spouses. Possible issues include asset division, child custody and access, and support. 

It is important to understand that an arbitrator cannot grant a divorce. However, he or she can help two parties create an agreement that can be presented to a judge, thereby expediting the divorce process. Arbitration is not for everyone, but it can be an effective way of resolving family law issues. Working with a lawyer who has experience with arbitration in Ontario will also help move the process along efficiently.

Source: attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca, "What happens at a family arbitration?", Accessed on May 23, 2017

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